Darling Look | Artist - Mobstr. Artwork installed - May 2014

In the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, there is an inscription on one of the walls of the basilica. It roughly translates as "O walls, you have held up so much tedious graffiti that I am amazed that you have not already collapsed in ruin." After more than 2,000 years of cultural progress, it is heartening to observe that the joy of text still burns strongly. Further parallels can be drawn between the somewhat salacious musings of Roman society, and the title of a thought-provoking debut exhibition by the British artist known as Mobstr - SEX, DRUGS & PAINTING CANVASES (An indoor collection of thoughts).

For over 12 years, this highly-engaging creative has applied his own personal ruminations on the world we now live in, to the everyday structure our urban world is constructed from. Using a very deliberate, paired-down minimalist vernacular, Mobstr engages the onlooker in a brief, manipulated moment of communal collusion. Much like the best examples of great art, when allowed inside the mind of the artist, we can briefly enjoy a mutual sense of elevation.

SEX, DRUGS & PAINTING CANVASES is similarly fleeting in its 15 minutes (or rather three days). And as a debut exhibition, dares to step beyond the street into the traditional display environment of the artist. Located among the pigment-saturated walls of London's Shoreditch, this monochrome, literal display of artistry wraps a guilt frame around the eternal building blocks of our world - language.

Your work seems to form a neat subversion of the notion that a picture paints a thousand words. Has the seemingly limiting approach of simplicity and standardisation allowed you to seduce the onlooker into your own view of the world?
This is probably a question the onlooker can answer better than myself.

Have you always created text-based work?
No but the first work I put up on the street which was when I was eleven years old was text based. I traversed styles and techniques until about five years ago when I started working under the alias Mobstr. With this identity came a concise realisation of direction and a focus on text based works.

Do you test the potency of your work before it is painted into the public domain?
Now and again I run it by a trusted friend.

When creating your artworks do you place your focus on the precision of each letter form? Or do you see the bigger picture?
With the text based outdoor work I stripped the aesthetics and style in order to differentiate from a scene that I felt was being filled up with overused imagery. As such it’s really about the message more than anything. The indoor stuff, of which there is very little in existence, has more focus on the finish.

With site-specific artworks, would you say you are creating a dialogue between yourself and the viewer, or the viewer and the world they live in?
I would say the latter. The more I can remove a personality from the work the better.

Given the message-saturated times that we live in, does your work provide an ironic narrative on contemporary society's obsession with communication?
I never like to say that my work pulsates with deep meaning or anything like that but i think it’s safe to say that some of the work reflects on or mocks the method, style and attitude that modern society communicates with.

Artists such as Edward Ruscha, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer, more recently Martin Creed and Fiona Banner, have positioned text-based art firmly on the gallery wall. How do you feel about transplanting your highly-contextual pieces from daylight to spotlight?
I open my debut exhibition this month. I have not moved into the indoor environment until now simply because I was enjoying painting on the street too much. Recently I wanted to see a body of work amassed under one roof. I felt like I had hit the streets enough so an exhibition was formed.

Are there artists who have influenced your own creative process or understanding of the world?
I read some works by Aldous Huxley when I was younger and I think that in particular  had an impact on my thought processes. I could list other authors but I feel that the culture, attitude and logistics of society are some of the strongest influences.

You often form a dialogue through the interventions you place in the public domain. Is this deliberate interaction an intrinsic part of what you do?
More than often it is a planned interaction but on a few occasions some unexpected events happened which I worked with to form a dialogue.

Where, and what, would provide the ultimate Mobstr installation?
The arctic circle and a lot of black paint.

Your work seems to present an ironic twist on the notion of graffiti. Whilst simultaneously embracing the origins of the street art oeuvre, and the creep into modernity, you present an acceptable face of illicit and anti-establishment disfigurement. How key is heritage and finding one's 'voice' within the street art scene?
There is a backlash from the traditional graffiti movement i.e “writers” against the street art movement which not only gained acceptance from society but also saw it’s notable artists getting paid quite handsomely for their work. People try to put rules on a genre of art that was formed on breaking the rules. Graffiti isn’t UK culture. It was imported from New York.I  feel it’s important, as with everything, to understand heritage but there is a danger in getting tied up in it. Unless you allow for new movement things will become very stale.

Much like the work of Rene Magritte, the transformative nature of what you place on walls engages the onlooker in a brief moment of mutual collusion. Are we all in on the joke?
Only if you laugh.
Is less more?
I once spent a huge amount of time doing this animation and once finished I realised it was shit. I then go paint one word somewhere and it has a much better result. To state the obvious: I think you need to do whatever works best for you. If that involves five brushstrokes opposed to five thousand so be it.

All artwork, text and images © Turnpike Art Group 2022.